Family Vacations to Montreal, Canada

Waterfront Montréal, Waterfront Montréal Canada
Waterfront Montréal (courtesy, Tourisme Montréal)

Montréal Family Travel Tips

Montréal, an island city on the St. Lawrence River, is bilingual (French and English), multicultural, and full of fun for families. For kids much of the spirit of the city is found outdoors. Start exploring in Old Montréal, where the town was founded in 1642. Stroll the narrow streets of this historic area lined with 19th-century buildings, many turned into art galleries and cafés. Jugglers, mimes, face painters, and other street performers enliven Place Jacques-Cartier, the area's central square. Bonsecours Market, originally a produce center opened in 1847, has jewelry, clothing, and craft shops. Ornate and impressive with exceptional stained-glass windows, the Notre Dame Basilica is one of the largest churches in North America. Gradeschoolers may appreciate the structure more during the evening sound and light show, a colorful multimedia presentation of the history of the city and the church.

The Old Port, a 1.5-mile-long park located between Old Montréal and the St. Lawrence River, is home to the Montréal Science Centre with scores of interactive exhibits. Learn such high-tech wizardry as how to program a robot and design a virtual bicycle. At "Ice Age Mammals," running until March 2007, find out what causes an ice age and see fossils of ancient creatures as well as a complete mastodon skeleton. From the Old Port, you can choose a calm, scenic cruise aboard the Bateau-Mouche or go for the thrills of a jet-boat ride on the Lachine Rapids, a rinse-cycle stretch of whitewater on the St. Lawrence.

At the Biodôme, experience four different habitats and see thousands of creatures. Try to spot the porcupine sleeping in a leafy tree or the tiny poison-arrow frogs camouflaged in the rainforest. Watch beavers swim underwater in the Laurentian Forest, see Atlantic sturgeon, halibut, and other fish in the St. Lawrence Marine Ecosystem, plus penguins in Polar World. At the Naturalia Discovery Room, young kids are encouraged to stroke the silky fur of a mink and feel the jagged teeth of a shark.

With 30 themed gardens and ten greenhouses spread over 185 acres, the Montréal Botanical Garden (Jardin Botanique de Montréal) is one of the biggest and also most beautiful gardens in the world. Highlights include the large Chinese garden, the peaceful Japanese garden, the Butterfly House, and the Insectarium, which has thousands of bugs, dead and alive, including a working beehive and a scorpion colony.

On Île Sainte-Hélène, a nearby island, tour the barracks and armory at the Stewart Museum at the Fort. In summer, costumed interpreters perform 18th-century military drills. La Ronde, a Six Flags amusement park on the island, recently unveiled Goliath, a monster roller coaster that hurls riders up to 68 mph and drops them a gut-wrenching 171 feet.

Go out of this world at the Space Science Centre of the Cosmodôme, Laval, just north of Montréal, where you learn about satellite communications, look at a moon rock, and find out how the sun was "born." At the three- and six-day Space Camps for kids (ages nine to 15), climb into the cockpit of a shuttle to experience a launch via video screen and then work together to complete a space mission.

Tip: Experience Montréal's underground city, 20 miles of well-lit passageways with shops and eateries that connect subway stations, hotels, and attractions in downtown.

Recommended Side Trips: Québec City, the Laurentian Mountains's resident family expert Candyce Stapen has written the book on family travel, having authored some 1,400 travel articles and 27 books, 26 of them on family travel. She is the winner of the 2004 "Caribbean Travel Writer of the Year for North America" award and a three-time winner of the Society of American Travel Writers' Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism award. Her articles have appeared in publications including Nick Jr , FamilyFun , Parents , Better Homes & Gardens , Conde Nast Traveler , National Geographic Traveler , and the Family Travel Network , among others. Her book, the National Geographic Guide to Caribbean Family Vacations is available from

Published: 2 Nov 2007 | Last Updated: 9 Aug 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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